A's beat Yomiuri with late rally
Bowen delivers go-ahead RBI; Crosby, Hannahan go deep
TOKYO -- Shortstop Bobby Crosby and third baseman Jack Hannahan hit back-to-back homers to erase an early deficit, and reserve catcher Rob Bowen banged an RBI double with two outs in the ninth to help the A's to a 4-3 victory over the host Yomiuri Giants on Saturday in an exhibition game at Tokyo Dome.
The A's, who got what turned out to be the game-winning run on an RBI single in the ninth from outfielder Emil Brown, will face the Hanshin Tigers here in another exhibition game Saturday night at 8 p.m. PT/11 p.m. ET. It s all part of Opening Series Japan 2008, which culminates in a two-game series between the 2007 World Series champion Red Sox and the A's that officially opens the regular season. Those two games are set for Tuesday and Wednesday, with both games beginning at 3:05 a.m. PT/6:05 a.m. ET.
And what an opening it should be. The A's, despite the exciting victory, mostly wanted to rave about the atmosphere created by Yomiuri's fans.
"It was like American football times a million," Bowen said. "Just constant noise, constant cheering. That was a lot of fun."
Much of the noise came from the right-field bleachers, where flags waved, a brass band played, drums were banged and songs and chants broke out throughout the game.
"What a great time," said A's catcher Kurt Suzuki, who went 2-for-2 with a walk. "There's just so much going on everywhere. It's incredible how much noise they make out there."
After the A's wasted consecutive singles by Jack Cust and Mark Ellis to open the top of the second inning, Yomiuri put together a two-out rally to take an early lead in the bottom of the frame. A walk by A's starter Dana Eveland got the Giants going, and after a single by HaYato Sakamoto, Ken Katoh's RBI single to center made it 1-0.
Oakland's offense squandered another two-on, nobody-out situation in the top of the third, and again the Giants magnified the A's missed opportunity by doing damage with two out in the bottom half. Alex Ramirez, who played for the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates during a three-year stint in the Majors (1998-2000), singled home Tomohiro Nioka, who had led off with a double to right.
The blasts by Crosby and Hannahan, off righty reliever Takahiko Nomaguchi, quickly tied it up in the fourth. Crosby's was an opposite-field shot to right-center field and his fourth homer of the spring.
"It was a fastball away," said Crosby, who went 2-for-3. "They kept on pitching me in, so I got my foot down a little bit early into a fastball and squared it up pretty good."
Hannahan's was a rocket to just right of dead center for his first spring long ball.
Eveland, a rookie lefty who threw 10 consecutive scoreless innings over his final two starts in the Cactus League, allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks with three strikeouts before leaving after five innings and 85 pitches.
"I was a little tired after the third inning," Eveland said. "The time change -- I don't think I've adapted to it yet."
Eveland called his outing "mediocre," but he perked up when asked about the fans.
"Pretty cool, huh?" he said. "There was a lot of action out there."
Righties Santiago Casilla, Andrew Brown and Huston Street followed Eveland with a quick scoreless inning of relief each, and after Bowen and Brown created a save situation, Rule 5 Draftee Fernando Hernandez nailed it down despite allowing a run on two hits in the ninth. After walking the tying run into scoring position with two outs, Fernandez got Lee Seung-Youp to fly out to left.
"The Giants are a bunch of battlers," Bowen said. "They play hard and put together a lot of good at-bats."
There weren't any big surprises in the Oakland lineup, but A's manager Bob Geren admitted he's still unsettled on a starting center fielder. Ryan Sweeney, who batted .225 in 15 Cactus League games, got the nod against the Giants over Chris Denorfia (.244), who was penciled in as the starter heading into Spring Training but struggled early before going 7-for-15 over his final five Cactus League games after opening the spring by going 3-for-26 in his first 10 games.
Sweeney went 0-for-2 with a walk and a nice running catch in the fifth inning before he was replaced in center by Denorfia, who entered the game as starter Jack Cust's replacement in left field before moving to center. Denorfia went 0-for-1 at the plate, reaching on an infield error.
"We're still watching them," Geren said of his center-field candidates. "Both have a lot of positives about their games."
Sweeney and Denorfia both will play again against the Hanshin Tigers in the first game of another exhibition doubleheader; the Red Sox and Tigers played before Oakland faced Yomiuri. If the A's are feeling any jet-lag, having to play a day game after a night game has the potential to exacerbate it.
"I heard a few guys woke up a little earlier than normal this morning, but everybody looks good," Geren said. "We should be fully adjusted by the first game against the Red Sox."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.